From an underdog to a medium-sized dog

We turned nine! This age marks different things for a company than what it means for a kid of the same age, but we share at least one thing in common: there’s still a lot to discover. We don’t feel we got everything figured out or that we reached our potential. We huddled a couple of valuable lessons, but the journey is still captivating and packed with unknowns. Our becoming is in full blossom, and so are we. 

October 27, 2020
Reading time 5 – 8 minutes
Arlo is watching PIxelgrade's back

There’s this saying in the entrepreneurial world, especially among startups, that being an underdog keeps your wheels spinning; that’s the driving force that fuels the tank. It’s even cool to be one, and people often attach an emotional liaison to those who fall into this category. It’s somehow humane to care about the weaker person who doesn’t have too many chances to win. 

In David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, the famous author Malcolm Gladwell has a quote about underdogs, a quote that went around the world over and over again:

“The fact of being an underdog changes people in ways that we often fail to appreciate. It opens doors and creates opportunities and enlightens and permits things that might otherwise have seemed unthinkable.”

There’s truth to this saying, and we certainly lived governed by its essence for years in a row. Being an underdog not only required a particular attitude and thinking from our crew, which helped us land here today, but it also implied being in a specific moment in life

We genuinely believe in the importance of syncing the personal journey with the company’s needs. Otherwise, it’s tough to align and move things forward when your personal expectations and those of the organization contrast.

While at Pixelgrade we’re still experiencing nuances of behaving like an underdog here and there (mostly in our ambition to prove we can do it), there’s no doubt that we became more of a medium-size doggie. Not in terms of the team’s size necessarily, but of beliefs and clarity about what we aim to accomplish.

We’re quite similar to Arlo, Vlad’s cockapoo, and a team member that’s roaming in the office all day long. You might have noticed him on our social media accounts and have fallen in love. That’s okay. We love him too. He is extremely friendly, likes to chase down cats, plays with other dogs, knows when barking makes sense as well as when it’s time to chill and enjoy some goodies. It would help to be more aware of Arlo’s behavior and learn from that. Hmmm…

What does it mean to be a medium-size dog after all? Well, I can only rely on our own understanding on this one. The same concepts can mean different things in other organizations, so take it with a pinch of salt. 

First of all, being a medium-size doggie has to do with the impact of growing—will all its perks and pitfalls—that leaves marks of all kinds. Let’s take each ripple one at a time to make room for more context and understand the bigger picture.

  1. On an intellectual level, we know more about what makes us-us and get less inspiration from what others are doing in the WordPress ecosystem, leaving room for explorations that feel right to us. We’re constantly fine-tuning our way of crafting digital products in tune with our values and staying away from all the noise regarding acquisitions happening right and left or tactics that encourage earning “easy” money. None of them are in our sights.
  2. On an emotional level, we learned to recognize and manage how we feel more accurately than in the past. Today, feelings guide us in making decisions, not blocking us. We make room for them to manifest as they are (raw) and give our best to be gentle with ourselves and our teammates. We talk openly about what triggers some reaction and how certain behaviors impact our well being and performance.
  3. On a financial level, we stay away from cookie-cutter approaches and give our best to be pragmatic with how we earn and spend the money we make through hard work. We’ve hit rock bottom more than once and had plenty of draining, dark moments last summer, but we believe that there are not many things that can tear us apart. With the right attitude and team, everything seems bearable.

Second of all, we achieved a remarkable depth and consciousness in how we put our values at the forefront of everything we do. Every step forward we took in the past years brought new layers of responsibility.

We added more skin in the game: to our craft, to how we grow a team, to how we adapt the office to match our needs, or to how we build an online community around stories that make us better people, with no commercial interest behind it.

We’re still a small team, proud and grateful for that, these days more than ever. We feel the weight of carrying an entire system of complicated dynamics and relationships on just a few shoulders — that’s not debatable.

Moreover, the decisions we take today are more straightforward, but harder at the same time. On the one hand, they are smoother due to how we align everything to our culture, which in turn brings clarity and peace of mind. On the other hand, they are more challenging because the expectations are higher, and our goals got bigger, all of which come with consequences and a particular mindset if we want to keep succeeding on our terms and pace.

We’re well aware of both sides of the sword, and we give our best to handle it in safe conditions while still having fun and working on meaningful projects.

Something that never left us, and we’re appreciative of, is the rebellious attitude defining Pixelgrade from the early days. It’s a particular way of assuming risks, zigging when others are zagging, trusting our inner-why, focusing on long-term results, and avoiding shortcuts of any kind.

It’s impressive of us, as a small crew that always relied on our own capital, time, pace, and energy. Being able to assist such a large number of customers, listen carefully to their feedback and integrate the lessons learned to create and design new and better products, it’s all that we could have wished for.

In the end, maybe you wonder what’s next and how does the future look like for us. We don’t know much besides keep being our own clients (with everything it implies), but one thing is sure: we’ve always pushed the boundaries to make the digital world a better place, and we’re committed to keeping doing that.

We don’t have any magic tricks under our sleeves other than being consistent. We will continue to do honest work governed by a clear set of values and beliefs and do our best to follow our mission: to support people who want to make an impact in their communities.

We are confident we have the right team, are in the right place, at the right time with the right motivations (and frustrations) to build the products people need.

Happy birthday to us, and thank you to all who left a mark on our becoming, be it ex-teammates, families, friends, collaborators, or true believers. We would not have been here today without your contribution. Moreover, your generosity and support give us the courage to keep pursuing our dreams. Cheers! 🥂

A question from Oana, marketer at Pixelgrade:
What are the biases you let go of, and how did they shape your evolution as a company?

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